The pros and cons of egg freezing have topped the headlines since Apple and Facebook announced last month their intentions to offer the procedure as a health plan benefit. While some applauded the move for allowing women to take charge of Mother Nature, others said the announcement signaled that these companies want women to spend their childbearing years slaving away in the office instead of starting families. But the debate over egg freezing ignores how deeply personal the decision is, making it unlikely to be influenced by external factors alone. To shed light on why some women make this choice, I spoke with a Los Angeles-area acquaintance I’ll call “Meg” about what prompted her to freeze her eggs as she approached 40.
NN: When did you freeze your eggs?
Meg: It was the end of 2012. I was 39 when I did it. I think time goes by so quickly. Before I knew it, it was ‘Oh, my God. I’m 39. I knew that I wanted a family. I still want a family. I started seeking information in terms of women and pregnancy and a woman’s ability to have a pregnancy after a certain age. I felt like I was getting a lot of unsolicited opinions from people, so I went to an informational session at a fertility clinic, and I went and spoke to the doctor there. The decision had a lot to do with my age.
NN: What were the unsolicited opinions people gave you?
Meg: A lot of people were saying you’re too old now to have kids. Once you hit 35 it’s too late to freeze your eggs, but I did end up having eggs to freeze.
NN: What was the process like on your body?
Meg: I don’t think I felt properly prepared for the process. I was put to sleep, so they could remove the eggs and before then I had to take a lot of drugs to induce egg production. I had to take the drugs at the same time each day. I basically had to plan my life around taking my medication for the weeks leading up to the egg retrieval. I also felt waves of emotions with so many hormones in my system. After they extracted the eggs it took about two weeks to feel normal, for my body to recalibrate.
NN: How many eggs did they retrieve?
Meg: They were able only to freeze five. I became kind of Internet-obsessed. I did the comparison. I saw that some women were able to freeze, like, 20. Because I was only able to freeze five, they wanted me to do another round. I chose not to for financial reasons and it was just tough on my body.
NN: How did you pay for the procedure?
Meg: I used money that I had, and I took out a very small loan. I wasn’t prepared for how much the medicine would cost. It was probably like $3,000 or $3,500, plus the procedure. Altogether it was about $6,000 or $6,500. I still have to pay an annual storage fee of $700.
NN: Did you know anyone who’d done this before?
Meg: I had a girlfriend who did freeze her eggs. When I started thinking about doing it, I spoke to her and she was encouraging me to do it. She went ahead with in vitro and has a son right now.
NN: Did you tell your friends and family that you froze your eggs?
Meg: I was careful about who I shared it with. I got tired of hearing feedback that I didn’t ask for. Everybody has their opinions when it comes to egg freezing, but I did share it with my close friends.
NN: You were dating your now husband during the process. When did you tell him you’d decided to freeze your eggs?
Meg: I actually told him when I was going through the process. I was kind of forced to. I had to take the medicine [for ovarian stimulation] at the same every day and we had a date, so I brought my freezer bag of medicine with me.
NN: Did you think this news would scare him away, that he’d think you had babies on the brain?
Meg: No, I thought if he got all freaked out maybe he wasn’t the right one for me. We’d been dating for just under two months. He was probably taken aback when he found out, but I think he had more moral or ethical questions than anything.
NN: How would you rate your experience with the fertility clinic you used?
Meg: I felt they were there if I did have questions. I have to say initially they were very warm, but after I had gone through the retrieval and they wanted me to do another cycle, I felt like they were just a large facility churning out these egg-freezing packages. Next time I would find a doctor practicing on a smaller scale, even if it may cost more money. I’d like to find someone who’s really personalizing things as opposed to the large fertility places. I feel like once they get you in, you become a number.
NN: You got married over the summer. What’s next for you? Do you plan to thaw your eggs?
Meg: We’re considering our options. We’re trying naturally and if we find it doesn’t work, we’ve been looking at doctors who are not part of a large fertility clinic.
NN: You said you didn’t feel prepared when you started the process. What’s your advice to women who are considering freezing their eggs?
Meg: Be prepared for the weeks it will impact your life and the finances. It’s expensive. You have to be prepared for the cost, for the time off work. Even though it is a same day procedure, you have the weeks leading up to it doing the injections. Your body is out of whack even after the procedure. It’s very important to have a good support network of friends or family members. Because of the hormones, you are very emotional.